Amaro Freitas, Y'Y, Psychic Hotline *****

Walk with the spirits, talk with the spirits: Even better than live, what a seance of an album - AfroBrazilian pianist/keyboardist composer all round polymath Amaro Freitas was good at Jazzahead last year especially the more Coltranian he went - …

Published: 16 Feb 2024. Updated: 2 months.

Walk with the spirits, talk with the spirits: Even better than live, what a seance of an album - AfroBrazilian pianist/keyboardist composer all round polymath Amaro Freitas was good at Jazzahead last year especially the more Coltranian he went - but one giant leap beyond, Amazonian ''homage to the forest'' Y'Y is just about the best album we have heard a month-and-a-half into 2024 (closely followed by the new John Surman album Words Unspoken, also five-star calibre which is out today) - the album title is a word from the Sateré-Mawé dialect of the Mawé language, an indigenous language of his homeland - the brilliant title track features Birmingham Britjazz icon Shabaka Hutchings on flute of course these days in duo - he's as much a monster flautist as he is a saxophonist - with Freitas' vocal and turns into quite a thrashing stomp of a thing. Overall the album is big on serenity, with an orchestral sense that is highly original and live you only grasp a tenth of what's here. The Brazilian is a storming pianist by the way, there is a frisson to his sound - and it's not snoozy and quiet at all. Other guests include Chicago eminence the great Jeff Parker; and there's Brandee Younger, suitably celestial, on 'Gloriosa.' Another standout is 'The Glow.'

The reverb soaked 'Mar de Cirandeiras' that references the culture of Freitas' home state Pernambuco and jazziest of all the tracks with its engaging triple-metre feel, the flying McCoy Tyner-like going-fourthisms found in the piano line of 'Encantados' with its chunky bass riff and sheer flow in the modulations, from the album are streaming ahead of the full release of Y'Y on 1 March

Tags: reviews

Michael Thomas, The Illusion of Choice, Criss Cross ***1/2

Updated with Spotify link, above, on release day 8 March I had been dying to listen to this for weeks and just got a listening copy today. Two reasons why, you know what you are getting with a Criss Cross release and recent releases including Lage …

Published: 15 Feb 2024. Updated: 45 days.

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Updated with Spotify link, above, on release day 8 March

I had been dying to listen to this for weeks and just got a listening copy today. Two reasons why, you know what you are getting with a Criss Cross release and recent releases including Lage Lund's latest have been impressive - the Dutch label provides connoisseur-level small group hard bop and beyond nearly always with a very American sound given that the records are generally recorded on the East Coast. That means even if you don't know the artist you can work out roughly what the environment of the record is going to be which is handy when you want to hear new generation new kids on the block. Secondly, it sounds trite but I liked the title of this album. I don't know why thirtysomething alto saxophonist Michael Thomas, who owes strong lineage to Lee Konitz in some aspects of his craft, and unknown to me before this recording, chose the title. But it's a great notion - I understand it only as a cognitive bias that causes people to believe they have more control over their lives than they actually do. That's a seriously interesting if scary concept and Thomas gives us his hard boiled tunes which perhaps are his own uncontrollable creations just having to get out from inside him. Nearly all originals, the only track I didn't like was the cover of 'It Could Happen To You' although I do like the Jimmy Van Heusen tune from the 1940s a lot.

Check out Lee Konitz's beautiful version with Stefano Bollani on Tenderlee (for Chet) [Philology, 1999] and how different that is when you hear the record to compare Thomas' sound although he has more affinity to it timbrally than the fatter, ringing tone of Charles McPherson's also ace 1970s version with Duke Jordan no less, who made history with Bird, on piano.

Here in Thomas' band are fine pianist Manuel Valera - his recording called Vessel last year was good - double bassist Matt Brewer and Monty Alexander drummer Obed Calvaire. Recorded in September 2023 in New York State the line-up was brought together specially for the recording session. The tough sounding strongly contrapuntal flavour often percolating through the tunes and against the improvisations is very flavoursome and isn't for softies at all. Thomas original 'Darkness and Light' is one of my favourites but all the originals make sense. SG. Out on 1 March